Archives For adamm

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I’m back…finally. :-)

Intro

For the past few months, I’ve been on a mission to find the best home WiFi. The “best” does not necessarily mean the fastest. It means the most reliable as we move around the house from room to room. It also means The Mrs. will not curse our stupid and slow home internet. This year, we have seen the rise of consumer wireless mesh networks that has typically been only available to corporate environments. Products from eero (that Dave endorses), Ubiquiti, Securifi, and Netgear are vying for you to upgrade your current router with the promise of whole home WiFi goodness!

Our residence is a newer-built detached single family home with two floors and a basement. Over the years, I’ve silently replaced our main router as newer technology has been released. I say silently, as my test for this was basically to see if The Mrs. would notice or comment on our home wireless network. Would she just look at me and ask why I was staring at her while she used her tablet…or would she throw that tablet to the ground screaming to the WiFi gods. In the past, I’ve tried multiple scenarios for our home network. The ONE ROUTER TO RULE THEM ALL approach. The Router + Powerline + Access Point approach. The Router + Extend Me approach.

While all of these might have worked initially, each scenario failed at some point whether it was clients being too far away from the router, or clients not being able to hand off properly to the different access points. Each scenario failed at our house. That’s why the wireless mesh network intrigued me so much. And with the big names finally getting into the ballgame, I thought it was time to try the Netgear Orbi.

Continue Reading…

HomeKit comes to Hue

Adam Miarka —  October 7, 2015

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Back in June, Philips announced that the Hue ecosystem would be compatible with Apple’s HomeKit. There was speculation if we’d need to purchase another Hue hub, or if the existing hub could be updated via software to support HomeKit. After plenty of leaks, and even a hands-on prior to launching, Philips has officially released a new Hue bridge to the masses.  Turns out that if you want HomeKit compatibility, you will need to purchase a new hub.  This falls inline with other vendors who have had to “relaunch” their products with updated hardware to meet Apple’s security requirements.  The good news for existing Hue customers though, is that Philips will offer a 33% discount to upgrade.  I won’t recap the physical changes to the new Hue hub as they are documented on multiple sites. What I want to do is walk thru the actual transfer process from the old Hue hub to the new one and some general observations, specifically around HomeKit and compatibility.

Transitioning from the old hub

The first thing you will need to do is make sure you have the latest Hue app. Philips released an updated version for earlier this week (iOS / Google Play) which supports transitioning hubs. Once updated, you will also need to make sure that the Hub itself has the latest firmware. You will be prompted to update automatically.

Philips has made it incredibly easy to transition bulbs and scenes from your old hub to the new one.   This is contrary to my Lutron experience which required me to unpair all lights/switches and repair them to the new hub. It can’t be understated how much this will make existing customers happy. Continue Reading…

The Google OnHub announcement led to a cacophony of polarizing views regarding this new, unexpected router. And now, after having deployed it within the Miarka house the past 24 hours, my thoughts fluctuate — I love the ease of setup and administration, but find myself perplexed by some of the performance I see throughout the house. Read on for more impressions of Google’s first router as it exists today.

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In preparation for the new features of iOS9, specifically around keyboard shortcuts, I thought it was time to finally figure out a keyboard solution for my iPad. After some research, I narrowed it down to either the Logitech Keys-to-Go and the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard. Both keyboards are similar in terms of features and dedicated buttons for quickly accessing iPad functions. But in the end, I preferred one over the other.

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If you value how the keyboard “feels” when typing, the Keys To Go (K2G) are more responsive compared to the Microsoft Universal Mobile and the soft material makes the keys nicer to the touch. The K2G is water resistant if you decide to spill that drink on it at the office desk or pot of pasta sauce at the kitchen. :-) Also, the K2G has a physical on/off switch which I prefer. You know that the keyboard is actually off. The MS Universal, you turn if off by putting on the top cover which is kinda cool, but there are times when you wonder whether it’s really turned off. Continue Reading…

What if the smart devices around your home could all interact with each other, even if they were from different manufacturers or different systems? Say your front door sensor could trigger a light to turn on in the living room when you get home. Currently, to get this kind of interoperability, you either need to acquire all the components of the same system (like Insteon), or have one agnostic hub that tries to “talk” all the different languages of the smart home landscape (like Staples Connect, SmartThings, and the dreadful Wink).

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What if there was another way? What if each of your home devices could speak the same langauge independent of manufacturer? An Elgato door sensor that opens when you get home could tell an Ecobee thermostat to turn house temp to 72 degrees. Or turning off a specific Lutron light switch in the bedroom could tell the August front door to lock?  That’s the promise of Apple’s HomeKit.

Much has been written already about HomeKit. But now that Apple is officially allowing vendors to start selling devices, we are finally starting to get a better understanding of what can and can’t be done with HomeKit. At first, my thought was that the iPhone now becomes the “hub” to control the devices of your home, but that was the wrong way to think about HomeKit.   HomeKit is much more far reaching. Continue Reading…

Philips has been slowly updating their lineup of wireless Hue LED lighting the past few months. Last week, Philips announed HomeKit compatibility for the Hue system stating that all existing lights would be compatible. Now whether that means a new bridge is required (my strong guess would be yes!) or a software only update to the existing bridge, you will be able to voice control your Hue lights this fall.

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And, now today, Hue announced new “beta” features for their Tap product that makes the device much more useful. Previously, you have 4 buttons to use for your Tap. You would assign these four buttons to existing scenes of your Hue system, and usually you’d want to have one of the buttons be an “all off” option. With Hue Labs, you now have two more options you can select for a button: a toggle and a dimmer.

Let’s start with the toggle feature first. Continue Reading…

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Last year, Logitech announced a new Home Hub which began a transformation of Harmony into a home automation hub by integrating a number of third party devices including as Philips Hue, Nest, SmartThings, and more! Not only could you control your media devices with a single remote / app, but we now also had the ability to control your lights, locks, and temperature of your home. Mix and match devices within your activities to create powerful new automations.

Sadly, at the time, Logitech left their older Smart Hub customers out in the cold. The new Home Hubs seemed to just be software updates, rather than any kind of additional hardware updates. Whether it was a change of heart, the angry voice of Harmony enthusiasts, or a little of both, Logitech has now provided an update for the older Smart Hub bringing it up-to-date with the Home Hub feature set. Continue Reading…

Tablo Android TV grid guide

It’s no secret that we are big fans of the Tablo TV system. Since the launch almost one year ago, Tablo has continually pushed the little placeshifting over-the-air DVR forward via software updates to bring functionality up to speed with most major competitors.One of the later enhancements has been thumbnail previews while FF/RW a recorded show. That alone seems to have pushed the Wife Acceptance Factor to 11 as it was one of her biggest complaints while trying to use Tablo!

Back in January at 2015 CES, Tablo announced a major overhaul to their Roku app, and also announced the addition of Fire TV and Nexus Player apps. Today, Tablo looks to make good on that promise by releasing these apps. For the past few days, I’ve been using the both the new Roku “preview” and the new Fire TV app. Visually, these apps are a major upgrade more akin to today’s standard DVR interface. My current setup for Tablo is that the device is wired directly into my router.   From there, I am using a pair of Netgear 1200 Powerline adapters so my connections is wired straight to the Roku 3. For the Fire TV stick, it’s currently running on my 5ghz band of my wireless router to minimize congestion.

Roku Preview

For the updated Roku preview app, Tablo had to completely rewrite the entire code base. This involved getting special privileges from Roku to break away from their standard app template. And although the old Tablo Roku app was fully functional, the number one feature was to have a more conventional UI that included a guide screen. With this “preview”, Tablo has transformed the interface to provide this functionality. Continue Reading…